Health Headlines: Stella the talking dog

Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 7:17 AM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - If you’ve ever tried to teach your dog commands, you know it can be a tedious job. Now, imagine teaching your dog to use words and phrases to ask for what they want and share with you how they feel.

Meet Stella, a spunky Blue Heeler-Catahoula mix. Her dog mom is Christina Hunger, a speech-language pathologist who is making headlines around the world after teaching Stella to use augmentative and alternative communication devices to express herself.

Stella has learned 50 words and can create phrases of up to five words long. But Stella isn’t the only dog finding their voice.

UCSD cognitive scientist Dr. Federico Rossano is leading the largest animal communication citizen science study ever done. It’s called, “How they can talk,” and involves 6,000 animals in 47 countries.

Dr. Rossano explained, “What we are trying to do is trying to understand to what degree they can communicate more complex thoughts. the first time I saw them putting together three, four buttons to sound like a sentence, I was pretty impressed and shocked...What amazed me more was when they would follow up on that because it then really felt like they were actually engaging in a conversation...The other thing that I thought was remarkable was really to see them communicating about the needs of somebody else.” ”

The time it takes for a dog to learn to talk depends on how much time their human puts into teaching them. But Dr. Rossano believes the time spent could lead us all to a better understanding of our furry friends.

Cats are also included in the study, although Dr. Rossano says they are much harder to train.

We also asked if one breed was a better learner than others and he says that border collies, poodles, and terriers seem to all be quick learners.